Some 150 staff are expected to go in News, Operations and Engineering, decimating around half of the network’s news force. While locally-produced bulletins will remain around the country, it will impact at a grass-roots level and long-term employees.
And today it is the ‘faceless’ employees who will wear the brunt of management’s mis-management.
The cost cutting follows previous redundancies, totalling over 100 staff, under former CEOs Lachlan Murdoch and James Warburton.
For viewers, TEN has presented an on-again / off-again commitment to its News, with bulletins added, axed, reintroduced and axed once again. The faces of TEN News have undergone wholesale changes -thank God Sandra Sully is still there (but only if you live in Sydney).
Such backflips confuse the audience about what the network brand stands for, and reverberate across the schedule for years to come.
News directors, too, have changed, with Jim Carroll and Anthony Flannery gone but others such as John Choueifate and Peter Meakin arriving.
Even the current CEO, Hamish McLennan, who has been in the role for 14 months has made statements of support for the TEN News brand. But yesterday he was the bearer of bad news.
Only last month he told the market: “News and Current Affairs has been another healthy area for us in terms of ratings and News and Current Affairs has seen solid growth since Peter Meakin joined TEN earlier this year.
“News and Current Affairs are a priority for TEN and we will be making some key announcements in that area over the next few months.*”
Similarly in November he said, “We’re investing in news; we’re putting more news on screen than ever before. If you look at what we’re doing with Wake Up and [morning program Studio 10], we’re putting nine hours of live television to air every day. We’re actually adding to the head count.”
In February he said the News operation had “become stronger and more efficient” – a line that will likely leave many staff scratching their heads today.
There are also multiple statements from McLennan and TEN about their long-term commitment to breakfast television, mirroring statements by the former management about its commitment to the Paul Henry hosted Breakfast before it too got the chop. Last week the network blamed Wake Up when it failed to disclose political alignments of a pensioner talking to Tony Abbott. The writing was on the wall.
TEN’s pain began in late 2010 when then-CEO Grant Blackley and Programming Chief David Mott announced plans to broaden the primary channel and send their youth audience to ELEVEN. It hired news staff and announced plans for local bulletins and current affairs with George Negus.
Here are the dizzying key moves in the News and Current Affairs strands over the past few years.
Try to keep up.
Late 2010: Hires additional News staff.
2011 (on-going): Cost-control program introduced.
January 2011: Introduces 6pm with George Negus, 6:30pm Local News bulletins. National weekend bulletin replaced by Local bulletins.
March 2011: National weekend bulletin reintroduced.
April 2011: Local bulletins axed. 5pm News extends to 90 minutes. George Negus moves to 6:30pm.
June 2011: Head of News Jim Carroll resigns.
July 2011: Redundancies in News, Sales, Operations.
September 2011: TEN Late News axed. 6:30 with George Negus axed.
October 2011: The 7pm Project extends to 1 hour from 6:30pm as The Project. Weekend bulletins replaced with National bulletin.
January 2012: James Warburton begins as CEO. TEN News at Five reverts to one hour. The Project bumped to 6pm, the second move in three months, adds Sunday edition.
February 2012: Breakfast launches. TEN Early News axed.
June 2012: TEN Late News returns.
August 2012: Programmer David Mott resigns.
October 2012: Staff redundancies. Beverley McGarvey appointed Chief Programming Officer.
November 2012: Breakfast axed. Project Sunday edition axed. TEN News presenter sackings.
December 2012: The Project returns to 6:30pm.
February 2013: TEN sacks CEO James Warburton. Russel Howcroft appointed Acting CEO.
March 2013: Hamish McLennan begins as CEO.
September 2013: TEN Eyewitness News rebrand.
November 2013: Wake Up, Studio 10 launch. Natasha Exelby exits Wake Up. Producer Adam Boland on leave for ill health.
December 2013: Mal Walden exits.
January 2014: Adam Boland resigns from TEN. Mike Munro joins TEN News.
February 2014: Head of News Anthony Flannery resigns. Peter Meakin begins as Head of News and Current Affairs.
March 2014: Chairman Lachlan Murdoch steps down, Hamish McLennan appointed.
May 2014: Wake Up, TEN Early News, TEN Morning News, TEN Late News axed. Staff redundancies in News, Operations and Engineering expected to total approximately 150 people.
* TEN has subsequently hired Matt White for its V8 Supercars and another project yet to be announced.
Wake Up, TEN Early News, TEN Morning News, TEN Late News will all end tomorrow.